other than the emotional charge of going from one ocean to another, there is really no advantage to making the full Canal transit if all you want is to see the Canal in operation.
I'm with your husband on flying; it has become a major pain, and getting worse all the time. I live near L.A. too, so any cruise round trip from, or embarkaing or debarking in L.A., I"m in!
I'm doing the full transit from Ft. Lauderdale to L.A. this April. If I have to fly, I'll fly first and get it out of the way, then just cruise home. I actually wanted to take the cruise you are talking about but couldn't get away for 18 days at the time I booked.
I would suggest the Pacific Panama Canal itinerary; and you might want to consider waiting until the April 26, '09 sailing on Coral Princess--I think you might find the weather more agreeable.